The Secret Reason We Haven’t Stopped Climate Change Yet

by Molly Dorozenski

November 1, 2018

The majority of Americans and 97% of scientists agree, so what’s the deal?

© Greenpeace

Climate change is real and it’s happening now.   If you are reading this, you probably agree with me, and with 97% of scientists who have come to consensus on this — not only because, well, you’re reading a Greenpeace blog, but also because 70% of Americans accept that climate change is happening, and around 60% think that to some extent it’s manmade.

I’ve been working in the environmental  movement for a decade, and nothing has been more alarming to me than the most recent IPCC report, which says we have just 12 years left to reign in emissions and figure out how to make sure we have a livable planet, not only for our children but for us.

Buried beneath the shocking headlines is the fact that it’s both affordable and feasible to make the changes we need to make, and with the majority of Americans in agreement with scientific consensus, you would think this would be a no-brainer.  Here at Greenpeace, we ask ourselves often how to communicate about this.  Do we communicate the scale of the threat — what would happen if the planet warmed two degrees or even three?  Do we immediately communicate solutions, or do we let people sit with their fear and try to impress upon the world how serious this problem is?

The truth is, I’m already feeling how climate change is impacting my life, and I know you can feel it too…In New York, the L train will stop service connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan for a whopping 15 months because of damage caused by the climate-supercharged Hurricane Sandy. It’s the severity of the red tide in Florida and out of control sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean, impacting the fishing and tourism industries.  It’s the rapidly increasing number of days every summer where extreme heat is a severe health risk that keeps people indoors — a dystopian fact that we are already coming to accept.  It’s wildfires spreading faster because of drought and taking people’s homes and the painfully slow recovery for Puerto Rico nearly a year after Hurricane Maria.

Thousands of people queue for buses to Manhattan at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn as they transfer from subways and LIRR. The subway was out of commission due to flooding in tunnels by Hurricane Sandy. This subway hub is the 3rd biggest in NYC.

So why is it with impacts visible, solutions possible and people and scientists on board, that climate change isn’t being addressed at the level reflecting the seriousness of the situation — not only by the current administration but also by ANY administration?

One huge reason is that more than half of Congress still denies climate change is real and manmade.  And why is that? Is it that we’re continually electing people who don’t understand basic science?  Well, maybe, but more likely it’s the shocking amount of money that the oil and gas industry has been pouring into our elections — more than $31 million in 2016 — and that’s not including dark money which could easily double that figure.   The result is a Congress that increasingly represents the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the people.

Ultimately we have to fix our democracy to fix the climate.  It’s not the easiest thing to get your head around when you realize that it’s not much easier to fix democracy. Ultimately, we need fair, publicly funded elections, an end to racist voting restrictions like Voter ID laws, a secure and modernized voting system with automatic registration, and to end gerrymandering and more to have a government that is of, by and for the people.  We need to lift up the voices and choices of people and make sure corporations and big donors don’t succeed at controlling the conversation and the agenda — because we’re running out of time.

If it sounds daunting, think of it this way — with a democracy that truly represents the people, so much will be possible.  I imagine we’ll find fewer polarizing issues and more common ground. We’ll be able to advocate for the policies that impact us and our families, including a just transition that creates jobs as we shift to a clean energy economy, and also other policies supported by the vast majority of Americans.  Despite the public narrative on how polarized we are, Americans agree on a lot of issues that could immediately help millions of people, like affordable healthcare, federal funding of education, and paid medical and family leave. Our democracy is nothing more than a tool for justice and we have a right and a responsibility to advocate for the best system that delivers the change we need.

You have a role in all of this.  First, you have to get out and vote, and preferably volunteer for the candidates near you that are champions for a fair democracy and champions for the climate.  But we’ll also be sharing opportunities in the coming months and years to really stand up for this kind of change, inviting and encouraging people to meet with elected officials, call, text, write letters, and work with their friends and family to make this urgent change possible.

Don’t like the current system? Here’s the first step in fixing it.

Right now you can do three huge things:

  1. Find your polling place and make a plan to vote.  Vote the entire ballot, from the bottom up — not just Senators and Representatives — and check out a ballot guide ahead of time so you are educated on the issues.
  2. Text Democracy to 877-877 to get alerts from Greenpeace’s Democracy Campaign about important moments where we can all act collectively.  We’ll ask you to do big things and small things, to sign petitions but also call the people who represent you in Congress, and help spread these opportunities to others.
  3. Share this infographic and spread the message.

It’s a lot, I know.  But the scale of the problem is huge, so it’s time to go all in.  Join us, and be part of something huge. Our planet and all the life it supports depends on it.

By Molly Dorozenski

Molly Dorozenski is a Project Leader at Greenpeace US, where she has worked for eight years in creative and strategic communications. She has planned and executed comprehensive communications campaigns including campaigns on climate, the Arctic, the Gulf Oil Spill, as well as a variety of corporate campaigns that helped move companies towards more sustainable practices. In 2015 she received an Effie Award for work with the VIA Agency that pushed tech companies to commit to using more renewable energy.

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